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OnTHE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release September 22, 1993
ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT
TO THE JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESS
9:10 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, members of
Congress, distinguished guests, my fellow Americans. Before I begin
my words tonight I would like to ask that we all bow in a moment of
silent prayer for the memory of those who were killed and those who
have been injured in the tragic train accident in Alabama today. (A
moment of silence is observed.) Amen.
My fellow Americans, tonight we come together to write a
new chapter in the American story. Our forebears enshrined the
American Dream -- life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Every
generation of Americans has worked to strengthen that legacy, to make
our country a place of freedom and opportunity, a place where people
who work hard can rise to their full potential, a place where their
children can have a better future.
From the settling of the frontier to the landing on the
moon, ours has been a continuous story of challenges defined,
obstacles overcome, new horizons secured. That is what makes America
what it is and Americans what we are. Now we are in a time of
profound change and opportunity. The end of the Cold War, the
Information Age, the global economy have brought us both opportunity
and hope and strife and uncertainty. Our purpose in this dynamic age
must be to change -- to make change our friend and not our enemy.
To achieve that goal, we must face all our challenges
with confidence, with faith, and with discipline -- whether we're
reducing the deficit, creating tomorrow's jobs and training our
people to fill them, converting from a high-tech defense to a high-
tech domestic economy, expanding trade, reinventing government,
making our streets safer, or rewarding work over idleness. All these
challenges require us to change.
If Americans are to have the courage to change in a
difficult time, we must first be secure in our most basic needs.
Tonight I want to talk to you about the most critical thing we can do
to build that security. This health care system of ours is badly
broken and it is time to fix it. (Applause.)
Despite the dedication of literally millions of talented
health care professionals, our health care is too uncertain and too
expensive, too bureaucratic and too wasteful. It has too much fraud
and too much greed.
At long last, after decades of false starts, we must
make this our most urgent priority, giving every American health
security; health care that can never be taken away; health care that
is always there. That is what we must do tonight. (Applause).
On this journey, as on all others of true consequence,
there will be rough spots in the road and honest disagreements about
how we should proceed. After all, this is a complicated issue. But
every successful journey is guided by fixed stars. And if we can
agree on some basic values and principles we will reach this
destination, and we will reach it together.
So tonight I want to talk to you about the principles
that I believe must embody our efforts to reform America's health
care system -- security, simplicity, savings, choice, quality, and
When I launched our nation on this journey to reform the
health care system I knew we needed a talented navigator, someone
with a rigorous mind, a steady compass, a caring heart. Luckily for
me and for our nation, I didn't have to look very far. (Applause.)
Over the last eight months, Hillary and those working
with her have talked to literally thousands of Americans to
understand the strengths and the frailties of this system of ours.
They met with over 1,100 health care organizations. They talked with
doctors and nurses, pharmacists and drug company representatives,
hospital administrators, insurance company executives and small and
large businesses. They spoke with self-employed people. They talked
with people who had insurance and people who didn't. They talked
with union members and older Americans and advocates for our
children. The First Lady also consulted, as all of you know,
extensively with governmental leaders in both parties in the states
of our nation, and especially here on Capitol Hill.
Hillary and the Task Force received and read over
700,000 letters from ordinary citizens. What they wrote and the
bravery with which they told their stories is really what calls us
all here tonight.
Every one of us knows someone who's worked hard and
played by the rules and still been hurt by this system that just
doesn't work for too many people. But I'd like to tell you about
Kerry Kennedy owns a small furniture store that employs
seven people in Titusville, Florida. Like most small business
owners, he's poured his heart and soul, his sweat and blood into that
business for years. But over the last several years, again like most
small business owners, he's seen his health care premiums skyrocket,
even in years when no claims were made. And last year, he painfully
discovered he could no longer afford to provide coverage for all his
workers because his insurance company told him that two of his
workers had become high risks because of their advanced age. The
problem was that those two people were his mother and father, the
people who founded the business and still worked in the store.
This story speaks for millions of others. And from them
we have learned a powerful truth. We have to preserve and strengthen
what is right with the health care system, but we have got to fix
what is wrong with it. (Applause.)
Now, we all know what's right. We're blessed with the
best health care professionals on Earth, the finest health care
institutions, the best medical research, the most sophisticated
technology. My mother is a nurse. I grew up around hospitals.
Doctors and nurses were the first professional people I ever knew or
learned to look up to. They are what is right with this health care
system. But we also know that we can no longer afford to continue to
ignore what is wrong.
Millions of Americans are just a pink slip away from
losing their health insurance, and one serious illness away from
losing all their savings. Millions more are locked into the jobs
they have now just because they or someone in their family has once
been sick and they have what is called the preexisting condition.
And on any given day, over 37 million Americans -- most of them
working people and their little children -- have no health insurance
And in spite of all this, our medical bills are growing
at over twice the rate of inflation, and the United States spends
over a third more of its income on health care than any other nation
on Earth. And the gap is growing, causing many of our companies in
global competition severe disadvantage. There is no excuse for this
kind of system. We know other people have done better. We know
people in our own country are doing better. We have no excuse. My
fellow Americans, we must fix this system and it has to begin with
congressional action. (Applause.)
I believe as strongly as I can say that we can reform
the costliest and most wasteful system on the face of the Earth
without enacting new broad-based taxes. (Applause.) I believe it
because of the conversations I have had with thousands of health care
professionals around the country; with people who are outside this
city, but are inside experts on the way this system works and wastes
The proposal that I describe tonight borrows many of the
principles and ideas that have been embraced in plans introduced by
both Republicans and Democrats in this Congress. For the first time
in this century, leaders of both political parties have joined
together around the principle of providing universal, comprehensive
health care. It is a magic moment and we must seize it. (Applause.)
I want to say to all of you I have been deeply moved by
the spirit of this debate, by the openness of all people to new ideas
and argument and information. The American people would be proud to
know that earlier this week when a health care university was held
for members of Congress just to try to give everybody the same amount
of information, over 320 Republicans and Democrats signed up and
showed up for two days just to learn the basic facts of the
complicated problem before us.
Both sides are willing to say we have listened to the
people. We know the cost of going forward with this system is far
greater than the cost of change. Both sides, I think, understand the
literal ethical imperative of doing something about the system we
have now. Rising above these difficulties and our past differences
to solve this problem will go a long way toward defining who we are
and who we intend to be as a people in this difficult and challenging
era. I believe we all understand that.
And so tonight, let me ask all of you -- every member of
the House, every member of the Senate, each Republican and each
Democrat -- let us keep this spirit and let us keep this commitment
until this job is done. We owe it to the American people.
Now, if I might, I would like to review the six
principles I mentioned earlier and describe how we think we can best
fulfill those principles.
First and most important, security. This principle
speaks to the human misery, to the costs, to the anxiety we hear
about every day -- all of us -- when people talk about their problems
with the present system. Security means that those who do not now
have health care coverage will have it; and for those who have it, it
will never be taken away. We must achieve that security as soon as
Under our plan, every American would receive a health
care security card that will guarantee a comprehensive package of
benefits over the course of an entire lifetime, roughly comparable to
the benefit package offered by most Fortune 500 companies. This
health care security card will offer this package of benefits in a
way that can never be taken away.
So let us agree on this: whatever else we disagree on,
before this Congress finishes its work next year, you will pass and I
will sign legislation to guarantee this security to every citizen of
this country. (Applause.)
With this card, if you lose your job or you switch jobs,
you're covered. If you leave your job to start a small business,
you're covered. If you're an early retiree, you're covered. If
someone in your family has, unfortunately, had an illness that
qualifies as a preexisting condition, you're still covered. If you
get sick or a member of your family gets sick, even if it's a life
threatening illness, you're covered. And if an insurance company
tries to drop you for any reason, you will still be covered, because
that will be illegal. This card will give comprehensive coverage.
It will cover people for hospital care, doctor visits, emergency and
lab services, diagnostic services like Pap smears and mammograms and
cholesterol tests, substance abuse and mental health treatment.
And equally important, for both health care and economic
reasons, this program for the first time would provide a broad range
of preventive services including regular checkups and well-baby
Now, it's just common sense. We know -- any family
doctor will tell you that people will stay healthier and long-term
costs of the health system will be lower if we have comprehensive
preventive services. You know how all of our mothers told us that an
ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure? Our mothers were
right. (Applause.) And it's a lesson, like so many lessons from our
mothers, that we have waited too long to live by. It is time to
start doing it. (Applause.)
Health care security must also apply to older Americans.
This is something I imagine all of us in this room feel very deeply
about. The first thing I want to say about that is that we must
maintain the Medicare program. It works to provide that kind of
security. (Applause.) But this time and for the first time, I
believe Medicare should provide coverage for the cost of prescription
Yes, it will cost some more in the beginning. But,
again, any physician who deals with the elderly will tell you that
there are thousands of elderly people in every state who are not poor
enough to be on Medicaid, but just above that line and on Medicare,
who desperately need medicine, who makes decisions every week between
medicine and food. Any doctor who deals with the elderly will tell
you that there are many elderly people who don't get medicine, who
get sicker and sicker and eventually go to the doctor and wind up
spending more money and draining more money from the health care
system than they would if they had regular treatment in the way that
only adequate medicine can provide.
I also believe that over time, we should phase in long-
term care for the disabled and the elderly on a comprehensive basis.
As we proceed with this health care reform, we cannot
forget that the most rapidly growing percentage of Americans are
those over 80. We cannot break faith with them. We have to do
better by them.
The second principle is simplicity. Our health care
system must be simpler for the patients and simpler for those who
actually deliver health care -- our doctors, our nurses, our other
medical professionals. Today we have more than 1,500 insurers, with
hundreds and hundreds of different forms. No other nation has a
system like this. These forms are time consuming for health care
providers, they're expensive for health care consumers, they're
exasperating for anyone who's ever tried to sit down around a table
and wade through them and figure them out.
The medical care industry is literally drowning in
paperwork. In recent years, the number of administrators in our
hospitals has grown by four times the rate that the number of doctors
has grown. A hospital ought to be a house of healing, not a monument
to paperwork and bureaucracy. (Applause.)
Just a few days ago, the Vice President and I had the
honor of visiting the Children's Hospital here in Washington where
they do wonderful, often miraculous things for very sick children. A
nurse named Debbie Freiberg told us that she was in the cancer and
bone marrow unit. The other day a little boy asked her just to stay
at his side during his chemotherapy. And she had to walk away from
that child because she had been instructed to go to yet another class
to learn how to fill out another form for something that didn't have
a lick to do with the health care of the children she was helping.
That is wrong, and we can stop it, and we ought to do it.
We met a very compelling doctor named Lillian Beard, a
pediatrician, who said that she didn't get into her profession to
spend hours and hours -- some doctors up to 25 hours a week just
filling out forms. She told us she became a doctor to keep children
well and to help save those who got sick. We can relieve people like
her of this burden. We learned -- the Vice President and I did --
that in the Washington Children's Hospital alone, the administrators
told us they spend $2 million a year in one hospital filling out
forms that have nothing whatever to do with keeping up with the
treatment of the patients.
And the doctors there applauded when I was told and I
related to them that they spend so much time filling out paperwork,
that if they only had to fill out those paperwork requirements
necessary to monitor the health of the children, each doctor on that
one hospital staff -- 200 of them -- could see another 500 children a
year. That is 10,000 children a year. I think we can save money in
this system if we simplify it. And we can make the doctors and the
nurses and the people that are giving their lives to help us all be
healthier a whole lot happier, too, on their jobs. (Applause.)
Under our proposal there would be one standard insurance
form -- not hundreds of them. We will simplify also -- and we must
-- the government's rules and regulations, because they are a big
part of this problem. (Applause.) This is one of those cases where
the physician should heal thyself. We have to reinvent the way we
relate to the health care system, along with reinventing government.
A doctor should not have to check with a bureaucrat in an office
thousands of miles away before ordering a simple blood test. That's
not right, and we can change it. (Applause.) And doctors, nurses
and consumers shouldn't have to worry about the fine print. If we
have this one simple form, there won't be any fine print. People
will know what it means.
The third principle is savings. Reform must produce
savings in this health care system. It has to. We're spending over
14 percent of our income on health care -- Canada's at 10; nobody
else is over nine. We're competing with all these people for the
future. And the other major countries, they cover everybody and they
cover them with services as generous as the best company policies
here in this country.
Rampant medical inflation is eating away at our wages,
our savings, our investment capital, our ability to create new jobs
in the private sector and this public Treasury. You know the budget
we just adopted had steep cuts in defense, a five-year freeze on the
discretionary spending, so critical to reeducating America and
investing in jobs and helping us to convert from a defense to a
domestic economy. But we passed a budget which has Medicaid
increases of between 16 and 11 percent a year over the next five
years, and Medicare increases of between 11 and 9 percent in an
environment where we assume inflation will be at 4 percent or less.
We cannot continue to do this. Our competitiveness, our
whole economy, the integrity of the way the government works and,
ultimately, our living standards depend upon our ability to achieve
savings without harming the quality of health care.
Unless we do this, our workers will lose $655 in income
each year by the end of the decade. Small businesses will continue
to face skyrocketing premiums. And a full third of small businesses
now covering their employees say they will be forced to drop their
insurance. Large corporations will bear vivid disadvantages in
global competition. And health care costs will devour more and more
and more of our budget. Pretty soon all of you or the people who
succeed you will be showing up here, and writing out checks for
health care and interest on the debt and worrying about whether we've
got enough defense, and that will be it, unless we have the courage
to achieve the saving that are plainly there before us. Every state
and local government will continue to cut back on everything from
education to law enforcement to pay more and more for the same health
These rising costs are a special nightmare for our small
businesses -- the engine of our entrepreneurship and our job creation
in America today. Health care premiums for small businesses are 35
percent higher than those of large corporations today. And they will
keep rising at double-digit rates unless we act.
So how will we achieve these savings? Rather than
looking at price control, or looking away as the price spiral
continues; rather than using the heavy hand of government to try to
control what's happening, or continuing to ignore what's happening,
we believe there is a third way to achieve these savings. First, to
give groups of consumers and small businesses the same market
bargaining power that large corporations and large groups of public
employees now have. We want to let market forces enable plans to
compete. We want to force these plans to compete on the basis of
price and quality, not simply to allow them to continue making money
by turning people away who are sick or old or performing mountains of
unnecessary procedures. But we also believe we should back this
system up with limits on how much plans can raise their premiums year
in and year out, forcing people, again, to continue to pay more for
the same health care, without regard to inflation or the rising
We want to create what has been missing in this system
for too long, and what every successful nation who has dealt with
this problem has already had to do: to have a combination of private
market forces and a sound public policy that will support that
competition, but limit the rate at which prices can exceed the rate
of inflation and population growth, if the competition doesn't work,
especially in the early going.
The second thing I want to say is that unless everybody
is covered -- and this is a very important thing -- unless everybody
is covered, we will never be able to fully put the breaks on health
care inflation. Why is that? Because when people don't have any
health insurance, they still get health care, but they get it when
it's too late, when it's too expensive, often from the most expensive
place of all, the emergency room. Usually by the time they show up,
their illnesses are more severe and their mortality rates are much
higher in our hospitals than those who have insurance. So they cost
And what else happens? Since they get the care but they
don't pay, who does pay? All the rest of us. We pay in higher
hospital bills and higher insurance premiums. This cost shifting is
a major problem.
The third thing we can do to save money is simply by
simplifying the system -- what we've already discussed. Freeing the
health care providers from these costly and unnecessary paperwork and
administrative decisions will save tens of billions of dollars. We
spend twice as much as any other major country does on paperwork. We
spend at least a dime on the dollar more than any other major
country. That is a stunning statistic. It is something that every
Republican and every Democrat ought to be able to say, we agree that
we're going to squeeze this out. We cannot tolerate this. This has
nothing to do with keeping people well or helping them when they're
sick. We should invest the money in something else.
We also have to crack down on fraud and abuse in the
system. That drains billions of dollars a year. It is a very large
figure, according to every health care expert I've ever spoken with.
So I believe we can achieve large savings. And that large savings
can be used to cover the unemployed uninsured, and will be used for
people who realize those savings in the private sector to increase
their ability to invest and grow, to hire new workers or to give
their workers pay raises, many of them for the first time in years.
Now, nobody has to take my word for this. You can ask
Dr. Koop. He's up here with us tonight, and I thank him for being
here. (Applause.) Since he left his distinguished tenure as our
Surgeon General, he has spent an enormous amount of time studying our
health care system, how it operates, what's right and wrong with it.
He says we could spend $200 billion every year, more than 20 percent
of the total budget, without sacrificing the high quality of American
Ask the public employees in California, who have held
their own premiums down by adopting the same strategy that I want
every American to be able to adopt -- bargaining within the limits of
a strict budget. Ask Xerox, which saved an estimated $1,000 per
worker on their health insurance premium. Ask the staff of the Mayo
Clinic, who we all agree provides some of the finest health care in
the world. They are holding their cost increases to less than half
the national average. Ask the people of Hawaii, the only state that
covers virtually all of their citizens and has still been able to
keep costs below the national average.
People may disagree over the best way to fix this
system. We may all disagree about how quickly we can do what -- the
thing that we have to do. But we cannot disagree that we can find
tens of billions of dollars in savings in what is clearly the most
costly and the most bureaucratic system in the entire world. And we
have to do something about that, and we have to do it now.
The fourth principle is choice. Americans believe
they ought to be able to choose their own health care plan and keep
their own doctors. And I think all of us agree. Under any plan we
pass, they ought to have that right. But today, under our broken
health care system, in spite of the rhetoric of choice, the fact is
that that power is slipping away for more and more Americans.
Of course, it is usually the employer, not the employee,
who makes the initial choice of what health care plan the employee
will be in. And if your employer offers only one plan, as nearly
three-quarters of small or medium-sized firms do today, you're stuck
with that plan, and the doctors that it covers.
We propose to give every American a choice among high-
quality plans. You can stay with your current doctor, join a network
of doctors and hospitals, or join a health maintenance organization.
If you don't like your plan, every year you'll have the chance to
choose a new one. The choice will be left to the American citizen,
the worker -- not the boss, and certainly not some government
We also believe that doctors should have a choice as to
what plans they practice in. Otherwise, citizens may have their own
choices limited. We want to end the discrimination that is now
growing against doctors, and to permit them to practice in several
different plans. Choice is important for doctors, and it is
absolutely critical for our consumers. We've got to have it in
whatever plan we pass. (Applause.)
The fifth principle is quality. If we reformed
everything else in health care, but failed to preserve and enhance
the high quality of our medical care, we will have taken a step
backward, not forward. Quality is something that we simply can't
leave to chance. When you board an airplane, you feel better knowing
that the plane had to meet standards designed to protect your safety.
And we can't ask any less of our health care system.
Our proposal will create report cards on health plans,
so that consumers can choose the highest quality health care
providers and reward them with their business. At the same time, our
plan will track quality indicators, so that doctors can make better
and smarter choices of the kind of care they provide. We have
evidence that more efficient delivery of health care doesn't decrease
quality. In fact, it may enhance it.
Let me just give you one example of one commonly
performed procedure, the coronary bypass operation. Pennsylvania
discovered that patients who were charged $21,000 for this surgery
received as good or better care as patients who were charged $84,000
for the same procedure in the same state. High prices simply don't
always equal good quality. Our plan will guarantee that high quality
information is available is available in even the most remote areas
of this country so that we can have high-quality service, linking
rural doctors, for example, with hospitals with high-tech urban
medical centers. And our plan will ensure the quality of continuing
progress on a whole range of issues by speeding the search on
effective prevention and treatment measures for cancer, for AIDS, for
Alzheimer's, for heart disease, and for other chronic diseases. We
have to safeguard the finest medical research establishment in the
entire world. And we will do that with this plan. Indeed, we will
even make it better. (Applause.)
The sixth and final principle is responsibility. We
need to restore a sense that we're all in this together and that we
all have a responsibility to be a part of the solution.
Responsibility has to start with those who profit from the current
system. Responsibility means insurance companies should no longer be
allowed to cast people aside when they get sick. It should apply to
laboratories that submit fraudulent bills, to lawyers who abuse
malpractice claims, to doctors who order unnecessary procedures. It
means drug companies should no longer charge three times more per
prescription drugs made in America here in the United States than
they charge for the same drugs overseas. (Applause.)
In short, responsibility should apply to anybody to
abuses this system and drives up the cost for honest, hard-working
citizens and undermines confidence in the honest, gifted health care
providers we have.
Responsibility also means changing some behaviors in
this country that drive up our costs like crazy. And without
changing it we'll never have the system we ought to have. We will
Let me just mention a few and start with the most
important -- the outrageous cost of violence in this country stem in
large measure from the fact that this is the only country in the
world where teenagers can rout the streets at random with semi-
automatic weapons and be better armed than the police. (Applause.)
But let's not kid ourselves, it's not that simple. We
also have higher rates of AIDS, of smoking and excessive drinking, of
teen pregnancy, of low birth weight babies. And we have the third
worst immunization rate of any nation in the western hemisphere. We
have to change our ways if we ever really want to be healthy as a
people and have an affordable health care system. And no one can
deny that. (Applause.)
But let me say this -- and I hope every American will
listen, because this is not an easy thing to hear -- responsibility
in our health care system isn't just about them, it's about you, it's
about me, it's about each of us. Too many of us have not taken
responsibility for our own health care and for our own relations to
the health care system. Many of us who have had fully paid health
care plans have used the system whether we needed it or not without
thinking what the costs were. Many people who use this system don't
whether we needed it or not without thinking what the costs were.
Many people who use this system don't pay a penny for their care even
though they can afford to. I think those who don't have any health
insurance should be responsible for paying a portion of their new
coverage. There can't be any something for nothing, and we have to
demonstrate that to people. This is not a free system. (Applause.)
Even small contributions, as small as the $10-copayment when you
visit a doctor, illustrates that this is something of value. There
is a cost to it. It is not free.
And I want to tell you that I believe that all of us
should have insurance. Why should the rest of us pick up the tab
when a guy who doesn't think he needs insurance or says he can't
afford it gets in an accident, winds up in an emergency room, gets
good care, and everybody else pays? Why should the small
businesspeople who are struggling to keep afloat and take care of
their employees have to pay to maintain this wonderful health care
infrastructure for those who refuse to do anything?
If we're going to produce a better health care system
for every one of us, every one of us is going to have to do our part.
There cannot be any such thing as a free ride. We have to pay for
it. We have to pay for it.
Tonight I want to say plainly how I think we should do
that. Most of the money we will -- will come under my way of
thinking, as it does today, from premiums paid by employers and
individuals. That's the way it happens today. But under this health
care security plan, every employer and every individual will be asked
to contribute something to health care.
This concept was first conveyed to the Congress about 20
years ago by President Nixon. And today, a lot of people agree with
the concept of shared responsibility between employers and employees,
and that the best thing to do is to ask every employer and every
employee to share that. The Chamber of Commerce has said that, and
they're not in the business of hurting small business. The American
Medical Association has said that.
Some call it an employer mandate, but I think it's the
fairest way to achieve responsibility in the health care system. And
it's the easiest for ordinary Americans to understand, because it
builds on what we already have and what already works for so many
Americans. It is the reform that is not only easiest to understand,
but easiest to implement in a way that is fair to small business,
because we can give a discount to help struggling small businesses
meet the cost of covering their employees. We should require the
least bureaucracy or disruption, and create the cooperation we need
to make the system cost-conscious, even as we expand coverage. And
we should do it in a way that does not cripple small businesses and
Every employer should provide coverage, just as three-
quarters do now. Those that pay are picking up the tab for those who
don't today. I don't think that's right. To finance the rest of
reform, we can achieve new savings, as I have outlined, in both the
federal government and the private sector, through better decision-
making and increased competition. And we will impose new taxes on
I don't think that should be the only source of
revenues. I believe we should also ask for a modest contribution
from big employers who opt out of the system to make up for what
those who are in the system pay for medical research, for health
education center, for all the subsidies to small business, for all
the things that everyone else is contributing to. But between those
two things, we believe we can pay for this package of benefits and
universal coverage and a subsidy program that will help small
These sources can cover the cost of the proposal that I
have described tonight. We subjected the numbers in our proposal to
the scrutiny of not only all the major agencies in government -- I
know a lot of people don't trust them, but it would be interesting
for the American people to know that this was the first time that the
financial experts on health care in all of the different government
agencies have ever been required to sit in the room together and
agree on numbers. It had never happened before.
But, obviously, that's not enough. So then we gave
these numbers to actuaries from major accounting firms and major
Fortune 500 companies who have no stake in this other than to see
that our efforts succeed. So I believe our numbers are good and
Now, what does this mean to an individual American
citizen? Some will be asked to pay more. If you're an employer and
you aren't insuring your workers at all, you'll have to pay more.
But if you're a small business with fewer than 50 employees, you'll
get a subsidy. If you're a firm that provides only very limited
coverage, you may have to pay more. But some firms will pay the same
or less for more coverage.
If you're a young, single person in your 20s and you're
already insured, your rates may go up somewhat because you're going
to go into a big pool with middle-aged people and older people, and
we want to enable people to keep their insurance even when someone in
their family gets sick. But I think that's fair because when the
young get older, they will benefit from it, first, and secondly, even
those who pay a little more today will benefit four, five, six, seven
years from now by our bringing health care costs closer to inflation.
Over the long run, we can all win. But some will have
to pay more in the short run. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the
Americans watching this tonight will pay the same or less for health
care coverage that will be the same or better than the coverage they
have tonight. That is the central reality. (Applause.)
If you currently get your health insurance through your
job, under our plan you still will. And for the first time,
everybody will get to choose from among at least three plans to
belong to. If you're a small business owner who wants to provide
health insurance to you family and your employees, but you can't
afford it because the system is stacked against you, this plan will
give you a discount that will finally make insurance affordable. If
you're already providing insurance, your rates may well drop because
we'll help you as a small business person join thousands of others to
get the same benefits big corporations get at the same price they get
those benefits. If you're self-employed, you'll pay less; and you
will get to deduct from your taxes 100 percent of your health care
If you're a large employer, your health care costs won't
go up as fast, so that you will have more money to put into higher
wages and new jobs and to put into the work of being competitive in
this tough global economy.
Now, these, my fellow Americans, are the principles on
which I think we should base our efforts: security, simplicity,
savings, choice, quality and responsibility. These are the guiding
stars that we should follow on our journey toward health care reform.
Over the coming months, you'll be bombarded with
information from all kinds of sources. There will be some who will
stoutly disagree with what I have proposed -- and with all other
plans in the Congress, for that matter. And some of the arguments
will be genuinely sincere and enlightening. Others may simply be
scare tactics by those who are motivated by the self-interest they
have in the waste the system now generates, because that waste is
providing jobs, incomes and money for some people.
I ask you only to think of this when you hear all of
these arguments: Ask yourself whether the cost of staying on this
same course isn't greater than the cost of change. And ask yourself
when you hear the arguments whether the arguments are in your
interest or someone else's. This is something we have got to try to
I want also to say to the representatives in Congress,
you have a special duty to look beyond these arguments. I ask you
instead to look into the eyes of the sick child who needs care; to
think of the face of the woman who's been told not only that her
condition is malignant, but not covered by her insurance. To look
at the bottom lines of the businesses driven to bankruptcy by health
care costs. To look at the "for sale" signs in front of the homes of
families who have lost everything because of their health care costs.
I ask you to remember the kind of people I met over the
last year and a half -- the elderly couple in New Hampshire that
broke down and cried because of their shame at having an empty
refrigerator to pay for their drugs; a woman who lost a $50,000-job
that she used to support her six children because her youngest child
was so ill that she couldn't keep health insurance, and the only way
to get care for the child was to get public assistance; a young
couple that had a sick child and could only get insurance from one of
the parents' employers that was a nonprofit corporation with 20
employees, and so they had to face the question of whether to let
this poor person with a sick child go or raise the premiums of every
employee in the firm by $200. And on and on and on.
I know we have differences of opinion, but we are here
tonight in a spirit that is animated by the problems of those people,
and by the sheer knowledge that if we can look into our heart, we
will not be able to say that the greatest nation in the history of
the world is powerless to confront this crisis. (Applause.)
Our history and our heritage tell us that we can meet
this challenge. Everything about America's past tells us we will do
it. So I say to you, let us write that new chapter in the American
story. Let us guarantee every American comprehensive health benefits
that can never be taken away. (Applause.)
In spite of all the work we've done together and all the
progress we've made, there's still a lot of people who say it would
be an outright miracle if we passed health care reform. But my
fellow Americans, in a time of change, you have to have miracles.
And miracles do happen. I mean, just a few days ago we saw a simple
handshake shatter decades of deadlock in the Middle East. We've seen
the walls crumble in Berlin and South Africa. We see the ongoing
brave struggle of the people of Russia to seize freedom and
And now, it is our turn to strike a blow for freedom in
this country. The freedom of Americans to live without fear that
their own nation's health care system won't be there for them when
they need it. It's hard to believe that there was once a time in
this century when that kind of fear gripped old age. When retirement
was nearly synonymous with poverty, and older Americans died in the
street. That's unthinkable today, because over a half a century ago
Americans had the courage to change -- to create a Social Security
system that ensures that no Americans will be forgotten in their
Forty years from now, our grandchildren will also find
it unthinkable that there was a time in this country when hardworking
families lost their homes, their savings, their businesses, lost
everything simply because their children got sick or because they had
to change jobs. Our grandchildren will find such things unthinkable
tomorrow if we have the courage to change today.
This is our chance. This is our journey. And when our
work is done, we will know that we have answered the call of history
and met the challenge of our time.
Thank you very much. And God bless America.
END10:02 P.M. EDT
Address by the President to a Joint Session of Congress
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, and fellow Americans:
Tonight we meet at an urgent time for our country. We continue to face an economic crisis that has left millions of our neighbors jobless, and a political crisis that&rsquos made things worse.
This past week, reporters have been asking, &ldquoWhat will this speech mean for the President? What will it mean for Congress? How will it affect their polls, and the next election?&rdquo
But the millions of Americans who are watching right now, they don&rsquot care about politics. They have real-life concerns. Many have spent months looking for work. Others are doing their best just to scrape by -- giving up nights out with the family to save on gas or make the mortgage postponing retirement to send a kid to college.
These men and women grew up with faith in an America where hard work and responsibility paid off. They believed in a country where everyone gets a fair shake and does their fair share -- where if you stepped up, did your job, and were loyal to your company, that loyalty would be rewarded with a decent salary and good benefits maybe a raise once in a while. If you did the right thing, you could make it. Anybody could make it in America.
For decades now, Americans have watched that compact erode. They have seen the decks too often stacked against them. And they know that Washington has not always put their interests first.
The people of this country work hard to meet their responsibilities. The question tonight is whether we&rsquoll meet ours. The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy. (Applause.) The question is -- the question is whether we can restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our beginning.
Those of us here tonight can&rsquot solve all our nation&rsquos woes. Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers. But we can help. We can make a difference. There are steps we can take right now to improve people&rsquos lives.
I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It&rsquos called the American Jobs Act. There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that&rsquos been supported by both Democrats and Republicans -- including many who sit here tonight. And everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything. (Applause.)
The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working. It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for long-term unemployed. (Applause.) It will provide -- it will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business. (Applause.) It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and if they hire, there will be customers for their products and services. You should pass this jobs plan right away. (Applause.)
Everyone here knows that small businesses are where most new jobs begin. And you know that while corporate profits have come roaring back, smaller companies haven&rsquot. So for everyone who speaks so passionately about making life easier for &ldquojob creators,&rdquo this plan is for you. (Applause.)
Pass this jobs bill -- pass this jobs bill, and starting tomorrow, small businesses will get a tax cut if they hire new workers or if they raise workers&rsquo wages. Pass this jobs bill, and all small business owners will also see their payroll taxes cut in half next year. (Applause.) If you have 50 employees -- if you have 50 employees making an average salary, that&rsquos an $80,000 tax cut. And all businesses will be able to continue writing off the investments they make in 2012.
It&rsquos not just Democrats who have supported this kind of proposal. Fifty House Republicans have proposed the same payroll tax cut that&rsquos in this plan. You should pass it right away. (Applause.)
Pass this jobs bill, and we can put people to work rebuilding America. Everyone here knows we have badly decaying roads and bridges all over the country. Our highways are clogged with traffic. Our skies are the most congested in the world. It&rsquos an outrage.
Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us a economic superpower. And now we&rsquore going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads? At a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America? (Applause.)
There are private construction companies all across America just waiting to get to work. There&rsquos a bridge that needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky that&rsquos on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America. A public transit project in Houston that will help clear up one of the worst areas of traffic in the country. And there are schools throughout this country that desperately need renovating. How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart? This is America. Every child deserves a great school -- and we can give it to them, if we act now. (Applause.)
The American Jobs Act will repair and modernize at least 35,000 schools. It will put people to work right now fixing roofs and windows, installing science labs and high-speed Internet in classrooms all across this country. It will rehabilitate homes and businesses in communities hit hardest by foreclosures. It will jumpstart thousands of transportation projects all across the country. And to make sure the money is properly spent, we&rsquore building on reforms we&rsquove already put in place. No more earmarks. No more boondoggles. No more bridges to nowhere. We&rsquore cutting the red tape that prevents some of these projects from getting started as quickly as possible. And we&rsquoll set up an independent fund to attract private dollars and issue loans based on two criteria: how badly a construction project is needed and how much good it will do for the economy. (Applause.)
This idea came from a bill written by a Texas Republican and a Massachusetts Democrat. The idea for a big boost in construction is supported by America&rsquos largest business organization and America&rsquos largest labor organization. It&rsquos the kind of proposal that&rsquos been supported in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike. You should pass it right away. (Applause.)
Pass this jobs bill, and thousands of teachers in every state will go back to work. These are the men and women charged with preparing our children for a world where the competition has never been tougher. But while they&rsquore adding teachers in places like South Korea, we&rsquore laying them off in droves. It&rsquos unfair to our kids. It undermines their future and ours. And it has to stop. Pass this bill, and put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong. (Applause.)
Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get extra tax credits if they hire America&rsquos veterans. We ask these men and women to leave their careers, leave their families, risk their lives to fight for our country. The last thing they should have to do is fight for a job when they come home. (Applause.)
Pass this bill, and hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged young people will have the hope and the dignity of a summer job next year. And their parents -- (applause) -- their parents, low-income Americans who desperately want to work, will have more ladders out of poverty.
Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get a $4,000 tax credit if they hire anyone who has spent more than six months looking for a job. (Applause.) We have to do more to help the long-term unemployed in their search for work. This jobs plan builds on a program in Georgia that several Republican leaders have highlighted, where people who collect unemployment insurance participate in temporary work as a way to build their skills while they look for a permanent job. The plan also extends unemployment insurance for another year. (Applause.) If the millions of unemployed Americans stopped getting this insurance, and stopped using that money for basic necessities, it would be a devastating blow to this economy. Democrats and Republicans in this chamber have supported unemployment insurance plenty of times in the past. And in this time of prolonged hardship, you should pass it again -- right away. (Applause.)
Pass this jobs bill, and the typical working family will get a $1,500 tax cut next year. Fifteen hundred dollars that would have been taken out of your pocket will go into your pocket. This expands on the tax cut that Democrats and Republicans already passed for this year. If we allow that tax cut to expire -- if we refuse to act -- middle-class families will get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time. We can&rsquot let that happen. I know that some of you have sworn oaths to never raise any taxes on anyone for as long as you live. Now is not the time to carve out an exception and raise middle-class taxes, which is why you should pass this bill right away. (Applause.)
This is the American Jobs Act. It will lead to new jobs for construction workers, for teachers, for veterans, for first responders, young people and the long-term unemployed. It will provide tax credits to companies that hire new workers, tax relief to small business owners, and tax cuts for the middle class. And here&rsquos the other thing I want the American people to know: The American Jobs Act will not add to the deficit. It will be paid for. And here&rsquos how. (Applause.)
The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about $1 trillion over the next 10 years. It also charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas. Tonight, I am asking you to increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the American Jobs Act. And a week from Monday, I&rsquoll be releasing a more ambitious deficit plan -- a plan that will not only cover the cost of this jobs bill, but stabilize our debt in the long run. (Applause.)
This approach is basically the one I&rsquove been advocating for months. In addition to the trillion dollars of spending cuts I&rsquove already signed into law, it&rsquos a balanced plan that would reduce the deficit by making additional spending cuts, by making modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and by reforming our tax code in a way that asks the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share. (Applause.) What&rsquos more, the spending cuts wouldn&rsquot happen so abruptly that they&rsquod be a drag on our economy, or prevent us from helping small businesses and middle-class families get back on their feet right away.
Now, I realize there are some in my party who don&rsquot think we should make any changes at all to Medicare and Medicaid, and I understand their concerns. But here&rsquos the truth: Millions of Americans rely on Medicare in their retirement. And millions more will do so in the future. They pay for this benefit during their working years. They earn it. But with an aging population and rising health care costs, we are spending too fast to sustain the program. And if we don&rsquot gradually reform the system while protecting current beneficiaries, it won&rsquot be there when future retirees need it. We have to reform Medicare to strengthen it. (Applause.)
I am also -- I&rsquom also well aware that there are many Republicans who don&rsquot believe we should raise taxes on those who are most fortunate and can best afford it. But here is what every American knows: While most people in this country struggle to make ends meet, a few of the most affluent citizens and most profitable corporations enjoy tax breaks and loopholes that nobody else gets. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary -- an outrage he has asked us to fix. (Laughter.) We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake and where everybody pays their fair share. (Applause.) And by the way, I believe the vast majority of wealthy Americans and CEOs are willing to do just that if it helps the economy grow and gets our fiscal house in order.
I&rsquoll also offer ideas to reform a corporate tax code that stands as a monument to special interest influence in Washington. By eliminating pages of loopholes and deductions, we can lower one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. (Applause.) Our tax code should not give an advantage to companies that can afford the best-connected lobbyists. It should give an advantage to companies that invest and create jobs right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
So we can reduce this deficit, pay down our debt, and pay for this jobs plan in the process. But in order to do this, we have to decide what our priorities are. We have to ask ourselves, &ldquoWhat&rsquos the best way to grow the economy and create jobs?&rdquo
Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers? Because we can&rsquot afford to do both. Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs? (Applause.) Right now, we can&rsquot afford to do both.
This isn&rsquot political grandstanding. This isn&rsquot class warfare. This is simple math. (Laughter.) This is simple math. These are real choices. These are real choices that we&rsquove got to make. And I&rsquom pretty sure I know what most Americans would choose. It&rsquos not even close. And it&rsquos time for us to do what&rsquos right for our future. (Applause.)
Now, the American Jobs Act answers the urgent need to create jobs right away. But we can&rsquot stop there. As I&rsquove argued since I ran for this office, we have to look beyond the immediate crisis and start building an economy that lasts into the future -- an economy that creates good, middle-class jobs that pay well and offer security. We now live in a world where technology has made it possible for companies to take their business anywhere. If we want them to start here and stay here and hire here, we have to be able to out-build and out-educate and out-innovate every other country on Earth. (Applause.)
And this task of making America more competitive for the long haul, that&rsquos a job for all of us. For government and for private companies. For states and for local communities -- and for every American citizen. All of us will have to up our game. All of us will have to change the way we do business.
My administration can and will take some steps to improve our competitiveness on our own. For example, if you&rsquore a small business owner who has a contract with the federal government, we&rsquore going to make sure you get paid a lot faster than you do right now. (Applause.) We&rsquore also planning to cut away the red tape that prevents too many rapidly growing startup companies from raising capital and going public. And to help responsible homeowners, we&rsquore going to work with federal housing agencies to help more people refinance their mortgages at interest rates that are now near 4 percent. That&rsquos a step -- (applause) -- I know you guys must be for this, because that&rsquos a step that can put more than $2,000 a year in a family&rsquos pocket, and give a lift to an economy still burdened by the drop in housing prices.
So, some things we can do on our own. Other steps will require congressional action. Today you passed reform that will speed up the outdated patent process, so that entrepreneurs can turn a new idea into a new business as quickly as possible. That&rsquos the kind of action we need. Now it&rsquos time to clear the way for a series of trade agreements that would make it easier for American companies to sell their products in Panama and Colombia and South Korea -&ndash while also helping the workers whose jobs have been affected by global competition. (Applause.) If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais, I want to see folks in South Korea driving Fords and Chevys and Chryslers. (Applause.) I want to see more products sold around the world stamped with the three proud words: &ldquoMade in America.&rdquo That&rsquos what we need to get done. (Applause.)
And on all of our efforts to strengthen competitiveness, we need to look for ways to work side by side with America&rsquos businesses. That&rsquos why I&rsquove brought together a Jobs Council of leaders from different industries who are developing a wide range of new ideas to help companies grow and create jobs.
Already, we&rsquove mobilized business leaders to train 10,000 American engineers a year, by providing company internships and training. Other businesses are covering tuition for workers who learn new skills at community colleges. And we&rsquore going to make sure the next generation of manufacturing takes root not in China or Europe, but right here, in the United States of America. (Applause) If we provide the right incentives, the right support -- and if we make sure our trading partners play by the rules -- we can be the ones to build everything from fuel-efficient cars to advanced biofuels to semiconductors that we sell all around the world. That&rsquos how America can be number one again. And that&rsquos how America will be number one again. (Applause.)
Now, I realize that some of you have a different theory on how to grow the economy. Some of you sincerely believe that the only solution to our economic challenges is to simply cut most government spending and eliminate most government regulations. (Applause.)
Well, I agree that we can&rsquot afford wasteful spending, and I&rsquoll work with you, with Congress, to root it out. And I agree that there are some rules and regulations that do put an unnecessary burden on businesses at a time when they can least afford it. (Applause.) That&rsquos why I ordered a review of all government regulations. So far, we&rsquove identified over 500 reforms, which will save billions of dollars over the next few years. (Applause.) We should have no more regulation than the health, safety and security of the American people require. Every rule should meet that common-sense test. (Applause.)
But what we can&rsquot do -- what I will not do -- is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades. (Applause.) I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety. I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients. I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy. (Applause.) We shouldn&rsquot be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards. America should be in a race to the top. And I believe we can win that race. (Applause.)
In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody&rsquos money, and let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they&rsquore on their own -- that&rsquos not who we are. That&rsquos not the story of America.
Yes, we are rugged individualists. Yes, we are strong and self-reliant. And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and the envy of the world.
But there&rsquos always been another thread running throughout our history -- a belief that we&rsquore all connected, and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.
We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. Founder of the Republican Party. But in the middle of a civil war, he was also a leader who looked to the future -- a Republican President who mobilized government to build the Transcontinental Railroad -- (applause) -- launch the National Academy of Sciences, set up the first land grant colleges. (Applause.) And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set.
Ask yourselves -- where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways, not to build our bridges, our dams, our airports? What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges? Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the G.I. Bill. Where would we be if they hadn&rsquot had that chance? (Applause.)
How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses decided not to support the basic research that led to the Internet and the computer chip? What kind of country would this be if this chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do? (Applause.) How many Americans would have suffered as a result?
No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. We have been, and always will be, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all a nation with responsibilities to ourselves and with responsibilities to one another. And members of Congress, it is time for us to meet our responsibilities. (Applause.)
Every proposal I&rsquove laid out tonight is the kind that&rsquos been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past. Every proposal I&rsquove laid out tonight will be paid for. And every proposal is designed to meet the urgent needs of our people and our communities.
Now, I know there&rsquos been a lot of skepticism about whether the politics of the moment will allow us to pass this jobs plan -- or any jobs plan. Already, we&rsquore seeing the same old press releases and tweets flying back and forth. Already, the media has proclaimed that it&rsquos impossible to bridge our differences. And maybe some of you have decided that those differences are so great that we can only resolve them at the ballot box.
But know this: The next election is 14 months away. And the people who sent us here -- the people who hired us to work for them -- they don&rsquot have the luxury of waiting 14 months. (Applause.) Some of them are living week to week, paycheck to paycheck, even day to day. They need help, and they need it now.
I don&rsquot pretend that this plan will solve all our problems. It should not be, nor will it be, the last plan of action we propose. What&rsquos guided us from the start of this crisis hasn&rsquot been the search for a silver bullet. It&rsquos been a commitment to stay at it -- to be persistent -- to keep trying every new idea that works, and listen to every good proposal, no matter which party comes up with it.
Regardless of the arguments we&rsquove had in the past, regardless of the arguments we will have in the future, this plan is the right thing to do right now. You should pass it. (Applause.) And I intend to take that message to every corner of this country. (Applause.) And I ask -- I ask every American who agrees to lift your voice: Tell the people who are gathered here tonight that you want action now. Tell Washington that doing nothing is not an option. Remind us that if we act as one nation and one people, we have it within our power to meet this challenge.
President Kennedy once said, &ldquoOur problems are man-made &ndash- therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants.&rdquo
These are difficult years for our country. But we are Americans. We are tougher than the times we live in, and we are bigger than our politics have been. So let&rsquos meet the moment. Let&rsquos get to work, and let&rsquos show the world once again why the United States of America remains the greatest nation on Earth. (Applause.)
Thank you very much. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
Big Government Is Back, And 3 Other Takeaways From Biden's Address To Congress
President Biden addresses a joint session of Congress. Biden made the pitch for a larger federal role in American society and marked history in the House chamber with two top women: Vice President Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Jim Watson/AP hide caption
President Biden addresses a joint session of Congress. Biden made the pitch for a larger federal role in American society and marked history in the House chamber with two top women: Vice President Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
President Biden's joint address to Congress looked back over the challenges he faced taking office 100 days ago in the midst of a pandemic — and declared "America is on the move again."
But the speech also outlined an ambitious, active role for the government to continue helping Americans struggling, as well as new proposals to boost the country's ability to compete. It amounted to an updated New Deal, but one that faces a precarious path to get through razor-thin margins in both the House and Senate.
Because of the pandemic and Biden' personality, the hour-plus speech was a stark contrast from his predecessor's. It was a more low-key and traditional litany of policy priorities instead of the often unpredictable and unscripted moments seen in former President Donald Trump's speeches on Capitol Hill.
Instead of facing a crowded chamber of lawmakers ready to interrupt with loud cheers, Biden spoke to a mostly empty chamber — only 200 attendees instead of the usual 1,600. The former senator felt at home, ad-libbing references to his former colleagues in Congress, and seeming nostalgic about his time walking the halls in the Capitol. But he also spoke to a deeply divided room that almost had polar opposite reactions to the bulk of his presentation.
Here are some takeaways from the joint address:
1. Era of big government is back, and Biden is all in
President Biden's Address To Congress, Annotated
Former President Bill Clinton notably declared in his 1996 State of the Union address that "the era of big government is over," marking a shift for Democrats then trying to show attention to fiscal responsibility. But Biden, in unabashedly rolling out new, liberal federal programs, rejected that and instead argued government was the solution.
Biden already notched one legislative achievement on his belt with the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill that he signed in March. Less than three weeks later, he unveiled a $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill, dubbed the American Jobs Plan, which calls for spending on a range of items like roads, bridges, water systems and broadband access. But it also expands beyond traditional infrastructure spending to include plans to address racial inequity and combat climate change.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have spent weeks debating what should ultimately qualify as infrastructure, and Republicans introduced their own, much more-targeted $568 billion proposal.
And Biden spent much of the primetime speech Wednesday outlining another massive domestic program — his American Families Plan — a nearly $2 trillion plan that includes initiatives pushed by progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders. These would dramatically widen the social safety net for Americans from preschool age to those on Medicare. It would convert some items initially designed as temporary coronavirus relief to more permanent federal mainstays for millions of families.
Biden was viewed as the moderate in the 2020 Democratic field. But since swearing in, he's made clear that he views his role is to use the government to transform the economy, targeting those at the lower rungs of the economic ladder. The Families Plan provides money for two years of preschool and two years of free community college, extending the current 12 years of public school American students now get. Biden also said low-income Americans should be guaranteed to spend no more than 7% of their income for child care for kids up to the age of 5. He insisted the U.S. should support up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.
Biden Takes The Stage In His Dream Role, But The Pandemic Still Sets The Scene
In total, Biden outlined almost $6 trillion in spending — another $4 trillion on top of what Congress already approved. This is a staggering sum, especially with the U.S. facing record deficits. It's also an ambitious effort politically after Democrats muscled through a COVID-19 relief bill through both chambers essentially on party-line votes due to universal GOP opposition.
Biden faces long odds to get the entire scope of his proposal through — he urged both parties to come together, but there's little evidence he'll get much, if any GOP support. He still needs to sell members of his own party on the merits of his plans. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a critical vote in the 50-50 Senate, told reporters on Capitol Hill before the speech that the size of the series of programs made him "uncomfortable."
2. Biden framed expanded federal programs as a New Deal for middle class to compete
Republicans have tagged Biden's expansive vision for more federal spending as "radical" and mocked his argument that items like health care subsidies and child care tax credits are forms of infrastructure. But instead of engaging in that debate, Biden argued that the U.S. should be compelled to provide these types of programs now because it was falling behind globally. He said these programs would equip Americans to compete with other countries in the 21st century — with education the cornerstone to close the gap.
Sen. Tim Scott's Republican Response To Biden's Address, Annotated
Biden said he wanted ideas from Republicans, and there was room for compromise, but he made it clear he wouldn't wait if negotiations didn't progress, saying: "Doing nothing is not an option."
"We can't be so busy competing with each other that we forget the competition is with the rest of the world to win the 21 st century. To win that competition for the future, we also need to make a once-in-a-generation investment in our families, in our children," Biden said.
The president, who regularly touts his own blue-collar roots, maintained that his plan was targeted to those who had been left behind as other nations emerged as leaders in the development of new technologies.
"The American Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America," he said. He argued his proposal to tax wealthy Americans and corporations was a fair approach, since the small number of ultra rich only expanded their portfolios during the pandemic while middle-class and low-income workers suffered.
"Wall Street didn't build this country. The middle class built this country. And unions build the middle class," Biden said.
3. Biden tied the success of his presidency to reasserting democracy abroad
Biden didn't mention Trump by name, but as he talked about his conversations with foreign leaders and his pledge that America was reengaging in alliances around the world, he stressed that he was pivoting away from the past four years.
Standing in the Capitol that was attacked on Jan. 6 by pro-Trump extremists who disputed the 2020 election results, Biden said, "the insurrection was an existential crisis — a test of whether our democracy could survive."
He framed the government's success at quickly distributing vaccines as a model for the rest of the world — that the American way is superior and more effective than those led by "the autocrats of the world."
"It's time we remembered that we the people are the government. You and I. Not some force in a distant capital. Not some powerful force we have no control over," Biden said. Americans have a responsibility to "do our part" — a contrast from Trump's emphasis on an "America First" foreign policy.
Biden said: "If we do, then we will meet the central challenge of the age by proving that democracy is durable and strong. The autocrats will not win the future."
4. Marking history
'Madam Speaker, Madam Vice President': Women Make History At Biden's Joint Address
Presidents frequently argue that they are making historic strides in their annual prime-time speeches, touting a policy accomplishment or statistics about a record-breaking economic indicator.
But Biden made the point of pausing at the start of his speech to emphasize the image of him standing for the first time as president of the United States before two women on the rostrum. That moment — streaming online and on television screens to millions — was a compelling moment for women, and for communities of color.
"Madam speaker, madam vice president — no president has ever said those words from this podium, and it's about time," Biden said, acknowledging the first female vice president, Kamala Harris, sitting behind him, alongside Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Later the president mentioned tasking the vice president with leading the effort to implement his American jobs plan, and her role in the diplomatic effort to address the immigration crisis in talks with Central American countries.
President Joe Biden Addresses a Joint Session of Congress — Livestream
Bravo Team, the Conners and #OneChicago’s first responders have the evening off so that President Joe Biden can deliver his first address before a joint session of Congress.
Beginning at 9/8c and airing across the Big 4 networks (as well as CNN, C-SPAN, Fox News, MSNBC and PBS), Biden’s speech will mark the conclusion of his first 100 days in office and outline his legislative priorities. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott will deliver the Republican response.
According to NPR, Biden is expected to highlight his administration’s accomplishments so far, which include a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package as well as crossing the 200 million vaccine-dose threshold eight days ahead of the 100-day target.
In addition, POTUS is poised to pitch his American Families Plan, which would raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans to expand access to education and child care and a $2.3 trillion infrastructure package, which would also address climate change, racial inequities and raising corporate taxes, per The New York Times.
Regardless of how Biden is perceived, Tuesday’s speech will be one for the history books: For the first time ever, two women &mdash Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi &mdash will be seated behind the president of the United States as he addresses a joint session of Congress.
As of press time, Biden’s approval rating stands at 54 percent. At the same point in their presidencies, Trump was at 46 percent Obama was at 60.8 percent Bush Jr. was at 57.6 percent and Clinton was at 58.2 percent.
Press PLAY on the video above to watch President Biden’s primetime address, then join the discussion below.
Key takeaways from Biden’s first joint address to Congress
President Joe Biden on Wednesday declared that the nation is “on the move again” in his first speech to a joint session of Congress, arguing that the United States has under his watch made strides in curbing the spread of the coronavirus and putting Americans back to work.
Speaking on the eve of his 100th day in office, Biden touched on a wide range of issues in addition to the pandemic, urging Republicans to work with Democrats to address gun violence, climate change, police reform and more.
But his hour-long speech drew instant criticism from Republican members of Congress, underscoring the deep divisions between both parties. Here are key takeaways from the address.
Progress on the pandemic
Biden spent most of his speech focused on his administration’s response to a pandemic that has killed more than 570,000 Americans.
Some 220 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered across the country since he took office, Biden said, surpassing his initial promise of 100 million shots in 100 days. Now 90 percent of Americans live within a few miles of a vaccination site, and the vaccine is available to everyone over the age of 16. The president used the prime-time address to make a public service announcement for the vaccine, while also cautioning that the pandemic isn’t over.
“Go and get the vaccination. They’re available,” Biden said, adding, “There’s still more work to do to beat this virus. We can’t let our guard down.”
Reminders of the pandemic were everywhere inside the House chamber where Biden delivered his remarks. Roughly 200 people attended the speech in person, far less than is normal for presidential addresses to joint sessions of Congress. Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wore masks the entire time as they sat behind Biden.
A historic first
For the first time in U.S. history, two women — Pelosi and Harris — stood behind the president as he delivered his address to a joint session of Congress. It was a landmark moment that the president himself addressed at the beginning of his speech: “Madame speaker. Madame vice president. No president has ever said those words from this podium, and it’s about time.”
‘Jobs, jobs, jobs’
More than 20 million Americans lost their jobs because of the pandemic, and millions remain out of work. Biden called it the “worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” but argued that his policies have already begun to help in the recovery.
The relief package that Congress passed earlier this year sent $1,400 paychecks to 85 percent of Americans, Biden said, and the economy has added 1.3 million jobs in his first three months in office, setting a new record.
“America is moving, moving forward. But we can’t stop now,” Biden said as he called on Congress to pass the American Jobs Plan, a sweeping, $2.3 trillion bill centered on infrastructure development, saying it would create millions of new jobs over the next decade and help the U.S. compete with China and other countries. He also asked Congress to act on climate change, saying there is “no reason” America should not become the world leader in renewable energy production.
The president also proposed reversing the Republicans’ 2017 tax overhaul, which lowered taxes for corporations and the wealthiest Americans. In one of the more memorable lines of the night, Biden claimed that “trickle-down economics has never worked,” drawing an icy reception from Republican lawmakers in the chamber.
Few signs of bipartisanship
The president drew bipartisan applause for a few of his proposals, such as a plan to “end cancer as we know it.” (It helped that he called it the most bipartisan issue he knew of.) But by and large, the Republicans listening in the chamber did not appear enthusiastic about Biden’s agenda.
With their silence, Republicans signaled opposition on nearly every issue, including Biden’s call for Congress to address gun violence and take on police reform. There were also few visible signs of agreement from Republicans on foreign policy, a topic Biden spent just four minutes discussing in the roughly 65-minute speech.
Biden attempted at times to strike a bipartisan tone. He never mentioned his predecessor by name, though he blasted some of his policies, such as the tax overhaul. Biden noted that he disagreed with some of his Democratic colleagues on economic policy, a reminder to Republicans — and voters watching at home — that he is less progressive than some of the primary opponents he beat last year.
When he addressed immigration, Biden asked Congress to pass the comprehensive reform plan he introduced shortly after taking office. But in an acknowledgment that there is little Republicans and Democrats can agree on, he added, “if you don’t like my plan, let’s at least pass” parts of the legislation.
‘Washington schemes’ and ‘socialist dreams’
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. delivered the Republican Party’s official response, a role traditionally reserved for a rising star in the party out of power.
Scott blasted Biden, who he said “inherited” a successful COVID-19 vaccine program that was started by the Trump administration. He also blamed Biden for not reopening schools sooner, saying regular classes should have resumed months ago, and said Republicans were not interested in a bloated, costly infrastructure plan that amounted to a “liberal wishlist of government waste.”
The South Carolina senator, who is one of a small handful of Black Republicans in Congress, also presented an alternative narrative on policing reform and the protests over racial injustice that have swept the nation in the past year. Scott pointed to his own family history and experiences overcoming discrimination as proof that America remains a country of equal opportunities for all.
“America is not a racist country,” he said.
Scott also previewed the Republicans’ message in next year’s midterm election. “A president who promised to bring us together should not be pushing agendas that tear us apart,” Scott said. He added, “our best future will not come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams.”
WATCH: President Joe Biden’s first joint address to Congress
WASHINGTON (AP) — The roar of applause that typically greets a new president entering the House chamber softened Wednesday to just a few hundred hands clapping as Joe Biden arrived to deliver his first joint address to Congress under strict coronavirus restrictions and tight security at the Capitol.
Watch Biden’s speech in the player above.
Usually an electrifying evening, this initial address from Biden was a more subdued affair, reflecting a country, and a Congress, only starting to emerge from the challenges of a lifetime.
Members of Congress took their seats, name cards spacing them out just a few to each row, some filling the visitor galleries because no guests were invited.
There was no crush of center-aisle lawmakers crowding to shake Biden’s hand, though he did fist-bump Chief Justice John Roberts and accept a hug from former rival Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator.
No coordinated splashy fashion statements as even members of Congress are partly working from home. Masks were required, along with a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination. Democrats outnumbered Republicans, who largely skipped the event.
Yet even with the diminished mood, one of the most striking parts of Biden’s address to Congress was his nod to the very House and Senate lawmakers who, even in their absence, will make or break the new administration’s ambitious agenda to rebuild America.
“Congress should act,” Biden told them over and over again.
As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Biden’s arrival, standing with Vice President Kamala Harris behind the president in a portrait of two women in power the country had never seen, it was a reminder that Congress will determine whether his sweeping $4 trillion proposals to invest in America and revive the role of government will come to pass.
Unlike his recent predecessors, Biden is a veteran of the legislative process and appears eager to reengage Congress as a co-equal branch in governing.
When President Donald Trump addressed Congress, he largely relied on the sheer force of his personality to muscle his ideas into law, with mixed success. With soaring speeches, President Barack Obama ultimately worked around a resistant Congress using his “pen and phone” to push a second-term agenda through executive actions.
“Let’s get to work,” Biden told Congress.
Biden is personally courting lawmakers with gusto, inviting them to meetings at the White House and sending his advisers to Capitol Hill, as he tries to nudge the narrowly split Congress to join his massive effort to reinvest in America.
Biden said he welcomes Republican ideas, but “doing nothing is not an option.”
The few Republicans attending, including Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, did not rise to applaud.
“The president, he can put together whatever laundry list he would like to see Congress act on,” said Frances Lee, a professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton, “but in the end, it will be Congress deciding what to take up.”
Security was tight, with National Guard troops still stationed at the iconic building almost four months after rioters stormed inside, trying to save Trump’s presidency. Five people died in the Jan. 6 riot and its aftermath, including a protester shot by police outside the very House chamber where Biden spoke.
Just about 200 of the 535 members of Congress were invited to attend, far from the 1,600 who typically crowd the House chamber on an often celebratory night for the new president. Roberts was the only Supreme Court justice there. A few top military brass came.
While Democratic lawmakers jockeyed for seats, with senators entering a lottery, many Republican lawmakers declined to attend, a protest of sorts as they pan the president’s first 100 days in office and cede the evening to the rival party.
Their absence left McConnell and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy to represent the GOP side of the aisle, which created a lopsided sense of support inside the chamber.
“I’ll have a great seat — right in front of my TV set,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who was staying home.
Still, it’s the rank-and-file members of Congress who will ultimately decide on the size and scope of Biden’s proposed infrastructure and human capital investments in the American Jobs and American Families plans.
Congress was able earlier this year to swiftly approve Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill on party-line votes, and Biden thanked the Senate, in particular, for approving a virus-related hate crimes act.
At one poignant moment he spoke directly to McConnell, saying he would never forget the time the Republican encouraged him to name a cancer research bill after Biden’s late son, Beau. “It meant a lot,” the president said.
But holding Democrats together or reaching across the aisle to Republicans will prove more daunting on issues including election reforms, gun control, policing law changes and immigration.
McConnell has dismissed Biden’s approach as a “bait and switch” presidency — one that promised bipartisanship with Republicans but that is going it alone with a very Democratic, if not progressive, agenda.
The president’s proposals include massive investments that Republicans argue are stretching the definition of infrastructure — electric vehicle charging stations for the automobiles of the future, as well as the construction of new veterans hospitals, child care center services and other facilities. As investments in families, there are promises of free preschool for 3- and 4-year-old children, free community college and tax breaks that send as much as $250 a month to households with children.
Together, Biden’s two proposals would be paid for by raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and hiking taxes on the wealthiest 1% of Americans earning above $400,000.
“Behind President Biden’s familiar face, it’s like the most radical Washington Democrats have been handed the keys,” McConnell said ahead of the speech.
But Biden is also changing the definition of bipartisanship, as his administration argues that the proposals are popular with Republican voters, despite resistance from Republicans on Capitol Hill.
In that, the president may have had all the audience he was looking for Wednesday as he spoke not just to the lawmakers he needs to pass his agenda, but also to the voters who will influence them to act — or not.
Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick and Alan Fram contributed to this report.
Biden’s First Address to Congress Now Not Likely Until March
President Joe Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress is all but certain to slip into March, making it the latest debut presidential speech to lawmakers in decades.
The Senate’s impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump slowed work on a pandemic relief bill, delaying the originally expected timeline. Two administration officials said Tuesday they didn’t expect Biden to lay out his longer-term economic recovery plan -- set to feature in the address to the joint session -- until after the recovery bill passes.
That pushes the speech into March, given the current timeline for the Covid-19 assistance legislation. The House intends to hold its first vote on that bill on Feb. 26, with the goal of final passage before March 14 -- when key benefits from the previous round of pandemic aid will expire.
The president’s first speech to Congress is generally an opportunity to lay out long-term policy themes as well as shorter-term legislative goals. Biden said last month that he intended to use the platform to unveil his economic recovery plan, expected to cost some trillions of dollars and feature priorities including infrastructure and clean energy.
“Next month, in my first appearance before a joint session of Congress, I will lay out my 𠆋uild Back Better’ recovery plan,” Biden said on Jan. 14.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki denied Tuesday that he had ever committed to a February speech, telling reporters “it was never planned to be in February, and we don’t have a date for a joint session at this point.”
Source: Organising for America, Democratic National Committee
Title: US: Obama: Address by the US President to a Joint Session of Congress
Madame Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the First Lady of the United States:
I've come here tonight not only to address the distinguished men and women in this great chamber, but to speak frankly and directly to the men and women who sent us here.
I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others. And rightly so. If you haven't been personally affected by this recession, you probably know someone who has - a friend a neighbor a member of your family. You don't need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It's the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It's the job you thought you'd retire from but now have lost the business you built your dreams upon that's now hanging by a thread the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope. The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.
But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this:
We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.
The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don't lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities in our fields and our factories in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.
Now, if we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that for too long, we have not always met these responsibilities - as a government or as a people. I say this not to lay blame or look backwards, but because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we'll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament.
The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank. We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before. The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform. Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for. And though all these challenges went unsolved, we still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as individuals and through our government, than ever before.
In other words, we have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn't afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.
Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.
Now is the time to act boldly and wisely - to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that's what I'd like to talk to you about tonight.
It's an agenda that begins with jobs.
As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President's Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government - I don't. Not because I'm not mindful of the massive debt we've inherited - I am. I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and caused more hardships. In fact, a failure to act would have worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth for years. That's why I pushed for quick action. And tonight, I am grateful that this Congress delivered, and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.
Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector - jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges constructing wind turbines and solar panels laying broadband and expanding mass transit.
Because of this plan, there are teachers who can now keep their jobs and educate our kids. Health care professionals can continue caring for our sick. There are 57 police officers who are still on the streets of Minneapolis tonight because this plan prevented the layoffs their department was about to make.
Because of this plan, 95% of the working households in America will receive a tax cut - a tax cut that you will see in your paychecks beginning on April 1st.
Because of this plan, families who are struggling to pay tuition costs will receive a $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college. And Americans who have lost their jobs in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage to help them weather this storm.
I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work. I understand that skepticism. Here in Washington, we've all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending. And with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.
That is why I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort - because nobody messes with Joe. I have told each member of my Cabinet as well as mayors and governors across the country that they will be held accountable by me and the American people for every dollar they spend. I have appointed a proven and aggressive Inspector General to ferret out any and all cases of waste and fraud. And we have created a new website called recovery.gov so that every American can find out how and where their money is being spent.
So the recovery plan we passed is the first step in getting our economy back on track. But it is just the first step. Because even if we manage this plan flawlessly, there will be no real recovery unless we clean up the credit crisis that has severely weakened our financial system.
I want to speak plainly and candidly about this issue tonight, because every American should know that it directly affects you and your family's well-being. You should also know that the money you've deposited in banks across the country is safe your insurance is secure and you can rely on the continued operation of our financial system. That is not the source of concern.
The concern is that if we do not re-start lending in this country, our recovery will be choked off before it even begins.
You see, the flow of credit is the lifeblood of our economy. The ability to get a loan is how you finance the purchase of everything from a home to a car to a college education how stores stock their shelves, farms buy equipment, and businesses make payroll.
But credit has stopped flowing the way it should. Too many bad loans from the housing crisis have made their way onto the books of too many banks. With so much debt and so little confidence, these banks are now fearful of lending out any more money to households, to businesses, or to each other. When there is no lending, families can't afford to buy homes or cars. So businesses are forced to make layoffs. Our economy suffers even more, and credit dries up even further.
That is why this administration is moving swiftly and aggressively to break this destructive cycle, restore confidence, and re-start lending.
We will do so in several ways. First, we are creating a new lending fund that represents the largest effort ever to help provide auto loans, college loans, and small business loans to the consumers and entrepreneurs who keep this economy running.
Second, we have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and re-finance their mortgages. It's a plan that won't help speculators or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values - Americans who will now be able to take advantage of the lower interest rates that this plan has already helped bring about. In fact, the average family who re-finances today can save nearly $2000 per year on their mortgage.
Third, we will act with the full force of the federal government to ensure that the major banks that Americans depend on have enough confidence and enough money to lend even in more difficult times. And when we learn that a major bank has serious problems, we will hold accountable those responsible, force the necessary adjustments, provide the support to clean up their balance sheets, and assure the continuity of a strong, viable institution that can serve our people and our economy.
I understand that on any given day, Wall Street may be more comforted by an approach that gives banks bailouts with no strings attached, and that holds nobody accountable for their reckless decisions. But such an approach won't solve the problem. And our goal is to quicken the day when we re-start lending to the American people and American business and end this crisis once and for all.
I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer. This time, CEOs won't be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over.
Still, this plan will require significant resources from the federal government - and yes, probably more than we've already set aside. But while the cost of action will be great, I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater, for it could result in an economy that sputters along for not months or years, but perhaps a decade. That would be worse for our deficit, worse for business, worse for you, and worse for the next generation. And I refuse to let that happen.
I understand that when the last administration asked this Congress to provide assistance for struggling banks, Democrats and Republicans alike were infuriated by the mismanagement and results that followed. So were the American taxpayers. So was I.
So I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions. I promise you - I get it.
But I also know that in a time of crisis, we cannot afford to govern out of anger, or yield to the politics of the moment. My job - our job - is to solve the problem. Our job is to govern with a sense of responsibility. I will not spend a single penny for the purpose of rewarding a single Wall Street executive, but I will do whatever it takes to help the small business that can't pay its workers or the family that has saved and still can't get a mortgage.
That's what this is about. It's not about helping banks - it's about helping people. Because when credit is available again, that young family can finally buy a new home. And then some company will hire workers to build it. And then those workers will have money to spend, and if they can get a loan too, maybe they'll finally buy that car, or open their own business. Investors will return to the market, and American families will see their retirement secured once more. Slowly, but surely, confidence will return, and our economy will recover.
So I ask this Congress to join me in doing whatever proves necessary. Because we cannot consign our nation to an open-ended recession. And to ensure that a crisis of this magnitude never happens again, I ask Congress to move quickly on legislation that will finally reform our outdated regulatory system. It is time to put in place tough, new common-sense rules of the road so that our financial market rewards drive and innovation, and punishes short-cuts and abuse.
The recovery plan and the financial stability plan are the immediate steps we're taking to revive our economy in the short-term. But the only way to fully restore America's economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world. The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care the schools that aren't preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility.
In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often, we have come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs. I see this document differently. I see it as a vision for America - as a blueprint for our future.
My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we've inherited - a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.
Given these realities, everyone in this chamber - Democrats and Republicans - will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars. And that includes me.
But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges. I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity.
For history tells a different story. History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas. In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry. From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history. And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.
In each case, government didn't supplant private enterprise it catalyzed private enterprise. It created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive.
We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril, and claimed opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation again. That is why, even as it cuts back on the programs we don't need, the budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, health care, and education.
We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we've fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.
Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders - and I know you don't either. It is time for America to lead again.
Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation's supply of renewable energy in the next three years. We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history - an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology.
We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.
But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.
As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink. We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad practices. But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win. Millions of jobs depend on it. Scores of communities depend on it. And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.
None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy. But this is America. We don't do what's easy. We do what is necessary to move this country forward.
For that same reason, we must also address the crushing cost of health care.
This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages. And in each of these years, one million more Americans have lost their health insurance. It is one of the major reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs overseas. And it's one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of our budget.
Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold.
Already, we have done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last thirty days than we have in the last decade. When it was days old, this Congress passed a law to provide and protect health insurance for eleven million American children whose parents work full-time. Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives. It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time. And it makes the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that is one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.
This budget builds on these reforms. It includes an historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform - a down-payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American. It's a commitment that's paid for in part by efficiencies in our system that are long overdue. And it's a step we must take if we hope to bring down our deficit in the years to come.
Now, there will be many different opinions and ideas about how to achieve reform, and that is why I'm bringing together businesses and workers, doctors and health care providers, Democrats and Republicans to begin work on this issue next week.
I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.
The third challenge we must address is the urgent need to expand the promise of education in America.
In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity - it is a pre-requisite.
Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish.
This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow. That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education - from the day they are born to the day they begin a career.
Already, we have made an historic investment in education through the economic recovery plan. We have dramatically expanded early childhood education and will continue to improve its quality, because we know that the most formative learning comes in those first years of life. We have made college affordable for nearly seven million more students. And we have provided the resources necessary to prevent painful cuts and teacher layoffs that would set back our children's progress.
But we know that our schools don't just need more resources. They need more reform. That is why this budget creates new incentives for teacher performance pathways for advancement, and rewards for success. We'll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our commitment to charter schools.
It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It's not just quitting on yourself, it's quitting on your country - and this country needs and values the talents of every American. That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
I know that the price of tuition is higher than ever, which is why if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to your community or serve your country, we will make sure that you can afford a higher education. And to encourage a renewed spirit of national service for this and future generations, I ask this Congress to send me the bipartisan legislation that bears the name of Senator Orrin Hatch as well as an American who has never stopped asking what he can do for his country - Senator Edward Kennedy.
These education policies will open the doors of opportunity for our children. But it is up to us to ensure they walk through them. In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father who will attend those parent/teacher conferences, or help with homework after dinner, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, and read to their child. I speak to you not just as a President, but as a father when I say that responsibility for our children's education must begin at home.
There is, of course, another responsibility we have to our children. And that is the responsibility to ensure that we do not pass on to them a debt they cannot pay. With the deficit we inherited, the cost of the crisis we face, and the long-term challenges we must meet, it has never been more important to ensure that as our economy recovers, we do what it takes to bring this deficit down.
I'm proud that we passed the recovery plan free of earmarks, and I want to pass a budget next year that ensures that each dollar we spend reflects only our most important national priorities.
Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office. My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs. As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time. But we're starting with the biggest lines. We have already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade.
In this budget, we will end education programs that don't work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don't need them. We'll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we're not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don't use. We will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn't make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.
In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. But let me perfectly clear, because I know you'll hear the same old claims that rolling back these tax breaks means a massive tax increase on the American people: if your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime. In fact, the recovery plan provides a tax cut - that's right, a tax cut - for 95% of working families. And these checks are on the way.
To preserve our long-term fiscal health, we must also address the growing costs in Medicare and Social Security. Comprehensive health care reform is the best way to strengthen Medicare for years to come. And we must also begin a conversation on how to do the same for Social Security, while creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all Americans.
Finally, because we're also suffering from a deficit of trust, I am committed to restoring a sense of honesty and accountability to our budget. That is why this budget looks ahead ten years and accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules - and for the first time, that includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For seven years, we have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.
We are now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war.
And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda and combat extremism. Because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens half a world away.
As we meet here tonight, our men and women in uniform stand watch abroad and more are readying to deploy. To each and every one of them, and to the families who bear the quiet burden of their absence, Americans are united in sending one message: we honor your service, we are inspired by your sacrifice, and you have our unyielding support. To relieve the strain on our forces, my budget increases the number of our soldiers and Marines. And to keep our sacred trust with those who serve, we will raise their pay, and give our veterans the expanded health care and benefits that they have earned.
To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend - because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America. That is why I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and will seek swift and certain justice for captured terrorists - because living our values doesn't make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger. And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture.
In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of engagement has begun. For we know that America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. We cannot shun the negotiating table, nor ignore the foes or forces that could do us harm. We are instead called to move forward with the sense of confidence and candor that serious times demand.
To seek progress toward a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort. To meet the challenges of the 21st century - from terrorism to nuclear proliferation from pandemic disease to cyber threats to crushing poverty - we will strengthen old alliances, forge new ones, and use all elements of our national power.
And to respond to an economic crisis that is global in scope, we are working with the nations of the G-20 to restore confidence in our financial system, avoid the possibility of escalating protectionism, and spur demand for American goods in markets across the globe. For the world depends on us to have a strong economy, just as our economy depends on the strength of the world's.
As we stand at this crossroads of history, the eyes of all people in all nations are once again upon us - watching to see what we do with this moment waiting for us to lead.
Those of us gathered here tonight have been called to govern in extraordinary times. It is a tremendous burden, but also a great privilege - one that has been entrusted to few generations of Americans. For in our hands lies the ability to shape our world for good or for ill.
I know that it is easy to lose sight of this truth - to become cynical and doubtful consumed with the petty and the trivial.
But in my life, I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places that inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and aspirations of Americans who are anything but ordinary.
I think about Leonard Abess, the bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him, plus another 72 who used to work for him. He didn't tell anyone, but when the local newspaper found out, he simply said, ''I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old. I didn't feel right getting the money myself."
I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community - how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay. "The tragedy was terrible," said one of the men who helped them rebuild. "But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity."
And I think about Ty'Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina - a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says, "We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters."
These words and these stories tell us something about the spirit of the people who sent us here. They tell us that even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency, and a determination that perseveres a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.
Their resolve must be our inspiration. Their concerns must be our cause. And we must show them and all our people that we are equal to the task before us.
I know that we haven't agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.
And if we do - if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday years from now our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, "something worthy to be remembered." Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.
SOUTH CAROLINA SEN. TIM SCOTT, in prepared remarks: “This administration inherited a tide that had already turned. The coronavirus is on the run! Thanks to Operation Warp Speed and the Trump administration, our country is flooded with safe and effective vaccines.”
THE FACTS: That’s a real stretch.
Biden took over in the midst of the winter wave of COVID-19, the worst to hit the nation. It’s true that cases and deaths had begun to decline from their peak in the second week of January, but the tide had far from turned. Daily cases were averaging more than three times higher than they are now.
And while the Trump administration shepherded the delivery of two highly effective vaccines, the supply of doses was short of meeting demand and several state governors were complaining about jumbled signals from Trump’s team.
Trump was focused on his campaign to overturn the election results and did not devote much public attention to the pandemic as his term came to an end.
SCOTT, in prepared remarks: “Just before COVID, we had the most inclusive economy in my lifetime. The lowest unemployment ever recorded for African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans. The lowest for women in nearly 70 years. Wages were growing faster for the bottom 25% than the top 25%. That happened because Republicans focused on expanding opportunity for all Americans.”
THE FACTS: His statistics are selectively misleading.
Nothing is false on its face in terms of numbers. Yet the gains reflected the longest expansion in U.S. history — something that started during Obama’s administration and simply continued under Trump without much change in growth patterns.
The labor force participation for women was below its 2001 peak, so the unemployment rate claims by Scott tell an incomplete story. The Black and Hispanic unemployment rates were lower because the total unemployment rate was lower. Yet both still lagged those of white workers by a large degree.
Scott also neglects to credit the Federal Reserve, which kept interest rates near historic lows to support growth and keep the recovery from the Great Recession going.
Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Elliot Spagat and Josh Boak contributed to this report.
The President's Address to a Joint Session of Congress
President Trump delivered an address (PDF) on February 28, 2017, to a Joint Session of the House and Senate. The President's remarks as printed in the Congressional Record are available on govinfo along with other related documents:
- 163 Cong. Rec. H1386 - Joint Session of Congress Pursuant to House Concurrent Resolution 23 to Receive a Message from the President
- H. Con. Res. 23 (Engrossed in House) and H. Con. Res. 23 (Received in Senate) - Providing for a joint session of Congress to receive a message from the President.
Joint sessions and meetings before Congress typically include the President's State of the Union Address, other Presidential addresses, and addresses delivered by foreign dignitaries. The inauguration of Donald Trump (163 Cong. Rec. S362) was held before a joint session of the 115th Congress, and addresses before a joint session or meeting of the 114th Congress included: